While Senate sleepovers prove to be fun publicity stunts replete with dramatic unveilings of numerous hide-a-beds, slumber-stilted orations, and polarized politics; they harbor something much more insidious and much more dangerous. Senate hi-jinks are shifting the paradigm of American warfighting far out into the foreseeable future, and likely beyond.
Combined with the daily MSM bodycounts which are used only to skew support of the war away from President Bush and our Congressionally supported, UN mandate driven, Iraq invasion and re-construction; Congressional jockeying on the Iraq war and the current “surge” is beginning to define what American warfighting will look like in 2008 and beyond. And it is not good news for the military.
All of the contrived rhetoric and issue bobbing is sending a subtle message to warfighting staffs on what the next war must look like and be fought like. Here is a glimpse.
All previous casualty rate expectations will be supplanted by those of OIF I and II. Yes, the very same casualty rates bemoaned by the pols will actually be the benchmark for the next US engagement. American military success has actually lowered expected casualty rates to levels that will eventually become impossible to achieve, bringing us nearly to a point where we might never engage our troops again.
We have become so unrealistic in what we expect in terms of casualties that we are establishing standards that can never be met in the context of true warfare and warfighting.
A by-product of this lowered casualty expectation will be the need to increase the speed of success before the casualty rates exceed the new, lower thresholds for mission “failure.” Future operations will require that total “victory” be accomplished well before the time/casualty lines intersect at 3000 dead and 4.5 years duration.
Don’t doubt it. Talk of leaving Iraq began well before this week’s Senate slumber party, and coupled with the lightening successes of Desert Storm, Afghanistan, and Operation Iraqi Freedom I, the threshold shift for speed/casualty expectations have shifted into the impossible region. Congressional machinations have certainly established our patience level in building democracies, even though our own liberation and democratic formation process took over fourteen years and produced over 50,000 total casualties.
Convincing Congress to continue war funding, and sustaining positive public opinion will become the new measures for “victory.” Battlefield success and the widely variable vagaries of war will be relegated to discussions at the local VFWs, but they will not be considered as primary indicators of victory out into the future. And this should not be lost to military planners. Failing to grasp this paradigm shift and failure to integrate it into future military operations will ensure “failure” when compared against the endlessly incongruous Congressional benchmarks.
This new casualty/time reality will necessarily manifest itself in warfighting, and it has its costs, fiscal and human.
First, the cost of national defense will go up. Speed costs more money and consumes more resources. In order to meet the unrealistic expectations of the new political class, our force structures must be larger, our weapons systems must be faster and more lethal, and our communications and control systems must be integrated to even lower levels than they are now. All of these cost money.
As with any endeavor the labor is the biggest expense. In order to sustain follow-on combat operations at levels comparable to our current “surge” levels in Iraq, we must grow our ground forces, likely by 25-35%. This will give us more combat power on the ground, and a larger force to sustain high operational levels. This means more troopers, more cooks, more doctors, and more officers, more of everyone. And that costs money. Lots of money.
Larger force structures translate into nearly permanent increased costs in DOD spending. Aside from funding higher force levels, higher retiree levels can be expected, as well as higher VA usage. These are all costs that will not diminish over time, and costs that come with increased force levels.
Weapons development costs will skyrocket. The new standard we have set for our rolling stock is now the threshold for our development programs going forward. Sustaining equipment speeds while up-armoring equipment is expensive. Sustaining a 60 mph threshold on a vehicle that weighs two thousand pounds more costs more fuel and necessitates bigger engines. Heavier equipment will challenge the service lives of our transport aircraft and all of our strategic lift systems.
Technology will continue to have to be funneled down even farther to our troops in the field. Sustaining continuity in fast paced combat requires empowered and informed subordinates prepared to assume the next higher position. This is achieved by robust command and control systems, and these systems must evolve into lightweight, seamless, two-way communication tools that build situational awareness for both the commander and the lowest subordinates possible…envision helmet mounted web cams integrated with single eye reticules, fully integrated with map overlays, GPS locating, friendly positioning, and intelligence overlays that constantly update both ways without any activity on the part of the commander or the subordinate. That kind of integration costs money. Lots of money.
There will be human costs as well.
Civilian casualties will increase.
Speed begets mistakes in war, and consequently our troops will make more mistakes in the field, resulting in more civilian casualties and more collateral physical damage to infrastructure. We will not be indulged with patient timelines that allow for painstaking planning around cultural or national icons. In short, we will have to trade precision for speed. And it will be the civilian population that suffers.
When contemplating follow-on actions, we will have to tailor our brutality to the condition we want do find the populations in once primary hostilities have subsided. We have learned by comparing our rebuilding efforts in Iraq to our occupations of Germany and in Japan that a fully pacified population is much more compliant than one that has been liberated after decades of harsh repression. Consequently, our methodologies much switch from the humane, low-collateral damage model we have been using since Vietnam, to one where our violent warmaking ensures that the entire population is stunned and weary, to the point of being compliant and cooperative.
We will have more friendly fire incidents. Again, speed begets mistakes and our friendly fire rates will go up correspondingly. This is another MSM anathema, so compressing operations will necessarily cause our troops to miss a highly emotional “benchmark” or measurable that is an inevitable reality in all war. This includes all of our recent military victories.
What is most interesting about the new constricting benchmarks for success is that they inevitably put us on a path for failure. We will increase our costs; a measurable failing. We will increase our barbarity; a measurable failing. We will increase our friendly fire incidents; a measurable failing.
So, while pressing speedily for a vision of victory necessitated by a compressed and shifted time/casualty paradigm, we will be failing at all of the “benchmarks” along the way. We will literally be “failing” as we are “succeeding”. And it is unlikely that the MSM and Congress could stomach a “success” that looks more like a failure.
Military action has it costs. We seem to have forgotten that. Ratcheting down those expected costs in the vacuum of the Congress, will only put our military in a position where real victories are no longer possible, and “success” is absent any historic measurable. But surely, forcing our military down a path to meet highly unrealistic expectations will cause myriad of other failures that will become exaggerated when compared to the employment our learned methodologies which, for the studied, balance the constraints of budgets, the expectations of an increasingly impatient population, and the grim realities of warmaking.
Congress is quickly maneuvering the military into a position where only the execution of the impossible can meet their expectations. That has never been the standard for our military, and it should never be in a realm where much lies in chance and fortune.
Commitment ensures success, not enumerable measureables manipulated to unrealistic levels.